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Cocky, black West Coast ska/punk/funkers meet buppie (black yuppie) East Coast novelist.I guess Spike Lee is culturally somewhere in between. Lee, Fishbone and I, along with the battalions of other young black artists I run into more and more frequently, all grew up feeling misunderstood by both the black worlds and the white.And it is by and large this rapidly growing group of cultural mulattoes that fuels the NBA.We no longer need to deny or suppress any part of our complicated and sometimes contradictory cultural baggage to please either white people or black.After going to private junior high and high school in New Haven I transferred to Phillips Academy, Andover, in the eleventh grade. I won't pretend to be other than a bourgie black boy, now 25-years-old, who hadn't lived around a lot of other black people beside my own family until I moved into Ujamaa, Stanford's black dorm, my freshman year.When a white friend I've known since the fifth grade heard I was writing this article and said, "What do you know about black culture? He didn't know I was reading Soul on Ice, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and listening to Richard Pryor's That Nigger's Crazy after school.Guitarist "Special K" Kendall Jones swings a half-full bottle of tequila toward me and everybody stops to watch me drink. Oh how I'd love to be able to chug the booze, smear my mouth with the back of my hand and belch, thus making these mean-looking black punks cheer and let fly guitar chord bursts like rounds from Zapata's pistoles.But I'm not about to throw up my magazine expense-account lunch, black male bonding ritual or no. Everybody just smiles and introduces themselves as they warmly shake my hand.
When the band first started playing they covered art-rock songs by Rush and Pink Floyd.And my friends and I -- a minority's minority mushrooming with the current black bourgeoisie boom -- have inherited an open-ended, New Black Aesthetic from a few Seventies pioneers that shamelessly borrows and reassembles across both race and class lines.This muscley combination of zeal, Glasnost and talent is daily commanding ever-larger chunks of the American art worlds.It's hard to believe that an essay that began in college would now be taught in those same halls, so I am awed and humbled by its continuing reception. There isn't any other tale to tell, it's the only light we've got in all this darkness...
And this tale, according to that face, that body, those strong hands on those strings, has another aspect in every country, and a new depth in every generation.Later they moved on to heavy metal and punk before discovering George Clinton's spaced-out soul bands Parliament/Funkadelic and then ska, a British wedding of rock and reggae."We're like bag people," says "Special K," "Whatever we do we take with us." We explored in the past but were not allowed to survive.The six members are a mongrel mix of classes and types and their political music sounds out this hybrid.